Plantations, Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal. Nsika Architects for eLan Group.


Let’s start with the obvious. It’s Tuscan. It’s gated. It’s god-awful! It sits on top of a hill overlooking the M13. If it had arms it’d be throwing stones at the passing traffic. It’s the essence of all that’s wrong with current South African urban design, planning and architecture.

I’ve tried to find the parties responsible for this. Unsurprisingly, I can’t.

Edit: It seems as though Owen Kemp for the eLan Group and Brent Buchanan of Nsika Architects are largely responsible. Correct me if I’m wrong.


16 Responses to Plantations, Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal. Nsika Architects for eLan Group.

  1. Vicki M says:

    Hear hear! Since when did a pastiche Meditteranean- themed development have anything to do with living in Africa? Its false nostalgia to me…

  2. Sam says:

    Rougier Swiatek & Associates

    Its actually quite beautiful – and the way crime is in this country – we all need to start living in an estate of sorts. I agree it should be of an Africa theme, but then we moan about that too, dont we?!

  3. Lateralus says:

    @Sam – There is brilliant South African Architecture which has no theme- the best architecture is beyond style or theme.I do agree with you about the crime though but there are better ways to deal with it rather then building walls.

    I know this development(too well)
    Why is it bad…
    – Yes its Tuscan=style=fashion= goes out of fashion. Furthermore it really has no relevance here, I used to say that the porter loo’s laded out during construction had more relevance or could be placed better in context. Why are these stylized gated developments popping up everywhere- I tend to think its a reaction to suburban sprawl, if you look at Hillcrests(and many other suburban districts) layout it’s a prime example of suburban sprawl and who can u blame for this- the town planning department possibly, yes.
    Site allocations are far too large, each house having such a large garden wasting space and furthermore isolating people from their neighbours allowing crime to be easier(the only time people see their neighbours is when they are driving out their driveway to work, work which is at least 30km’s away) . Plantations (in its defence) has “I think” the sort of density which allows for passive surveillance(whether its implemented is another question), social interactions, walkability(10min walk) etc.. but all this means nothing when the whole development is isolated(gated) unto itself , has no real community facilities, and is decentralized from the existing urban centre being Hillcrest( and consequently adds to the sprawl).
    The developer creates his product – and sells it by creating an idea of some sort of “utopia life style” which seems better then the way we live now. The whole notion is corrupted when one’s most basic need(i.e. shelter) becomes nothing more than a “product” where the individual has very little say in outcome an thus no means to express individuality. The guidelines imposed on architects who were involved in plantations development were very ridged (as they always are with these developments)- reason being “Owen Kemps restricted to tender pool” only uses standardised products where Owen Kemp owns or has interest in the company which manufactures theses Mock Sashes, Mock quoining , tapered columns etc… so it benefits him to force everyone to buy his products(yay).
    Architects are forced to create “dressed boxes” – it’s all very fashionable, it’s safe and there is some sense of community, but the most frustrating thing about this is that there are some many better ways to do this. I think we should be focusing on upgrading and getting people back into our existing urban centres, mixed use environments just work so much better.

  4. Sam says:

    @Lateralus: I see where you coming from, it would be nice to not have all the walls. Look at Le Domaine – or the other development (cant remember the name) along inanda drive – it has massive walls… all the beauty of Hillcrest has been replaced with these huge buildings / walls / shopping centers!
    I dont think we should blame the architects for this though – its the developers (such as Owen Kemp) who, as you say, are just selling a product without giving a second thought to anything…

  5. Jennifer says:

    How Owen Kemp has the audacity to actually live in Plantations when he took so many people for a ride the standard of workmanship so bad in every respect, and none of the defects ever put right.

  6. silentbee says:


    He lives there!? Well, if nothing else at least he’s eating his own dogfood. Still, he must not have his name on his postbox 😉

  7. Leigh says:

    Of course you can blame the architects!! Doctors have their oath to “first do no harm” as professionals architects should have the same ethic towards our work, if we refused to facilitate poor architecture it wouldn’t happen. Poor Hillcrest has been over run with “urban slums” in recent years; Plantations, Le Domaine, Kirklington and 101 on Accutts looks set to be another one and looks like Owen Kemp has got hold of

  8. Leigh says:

    the emberton driving range site and is set to develop another housing estate…lets hold thumbs that its less of an eyesore than plantations!

  9. Simon says:

    Not the eLan Group guys. Owen Kemp was never a part of eLan. Yes this architecture is hideous and without any local reference. Check out Simbithi Eco-Estate for what can be done in a gated estate.

  10. Nigel says:

    Each to his own, if you speak to the +- 700 families that live in Plantations there are very few who are not happy with the life style. Remember there is no South African Architecture beside the Rondavel/thatch based buildings, everything else is taken from other countries.

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